Rivendell: The Breakaway Brand


To the average person, cycling brings up images of riders in body-clinging tights whizzing by at speed, an association shaped by team sponsorships and coverage of world-famous races such as the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.  The quest to shave off a few more grams in the service of speed is the holy grail of many a cyclist, and by extension, bicycle brands, who compete to deliver the newest, lightest piece of equipment, down to the nuts and bolts, with the implicit goal of beating someone's Strava time.  

In truth, not everyone fits the high speed ethos. Out in Walnut Creek, California, a bicycle company called Rivendell Bicycle Works has been making headway in the industry singing to the tune that good ol' reliable steel frames are the way to go. Clanking along with racks and baskets, fenders and mudflaps, Rivendell has carved out a loyal following and inspired a handful of gutsy independent brands to jump on the bandwagon.  Owner Grant Petersen, who prefers to sell merino wool clothing over Lycra, founded Rivendell after a 10-year stint as the Product and Marketing Manager of Bridgestone Cycle USA, where he was known for going against the trend.  While other brands experimented with suspension, Petersen released rigid steel forks for mountain bikes.  It is telling that the bikes he produced at Bridgestone are now sought after by collectors due to their unique characteristics. Today, he is considered as the leader of a new movement that prefers the strength of steel and feel of leather to the latest in racing technology.   In 2012, Petersen published a book titled “Just Ride,” which outlines his philosophy to cycling and prompted many to rethink their approach to cycling.

Petersen champions the philosophy that bicycles should be a natural part of our everyday lives. Leisure, comfort and exploration are more important being aerodynamic and lightweight. Due to his cult-like status in the bicycle industry, Petersen became one of the instigators in the industry, and people begin to embrace the idea that cycling does not have to be about lightweight equipment, speed and the race to finish. There is a place in the market for heavy, reliable bicycles to be ridden for pleasure or commuting.  The Petersen effect is now being seen with some in the industry following suit, producing steel bikes aimed at the  brevets, cross-country and camping market rather instead of for racing. A once untapped market of riders has found discovered a new way of cycling.  

Despite its success as a brand that is primarily marketed through word of mouth, social media and the internet, Rivendell has its own challenges such as keeping in supply and demand in check.  As a fairly small operation, the ability to have a large inventory and shipping out to customers on time is a challenge.  In addition, Petersen even restricts the parts that can go on to his bikes and has rejected some orders as he feels they do not meet his requirements.  This is a challenge for customers who are ready to commit to 1000K to 5000K bicycles.  His bikes are not cheap but then again, they are built to last.

Customers who gravitate towards Rivendell bikes are those who considers these bicycles to be the ideal extension of their lifestyle. These customers would rather buy from an experienced, retrogrouch like Petersen than from the giants.  And by the way, Rivendell also sells children's books, pine soap and hatchets.  Talk about challenging the norm.

To learn more about Rivendell Bicycles, click here.

To the point


There are about 20 major consumer banks in Indonesia. One commonality that exists between all of these banks is that most target consumers through a image that citizens of an emerging market want: an affluent lifestyle. Plastered on their billboards you typically find images of a family dining on a beautiful beach or a powerful business person walking down the ramp of his private jet towards his limousine. There is nothing wrong showing these images and I presume most people would not complain if this happened in their lives.

However, it leaves me dark about the actual benefits that each bank offers. For example, it took me a long time to find out that some banks allow you to take out cash from any of their competitors’ ATM machines at no cost, and at other banks you can permit someone to pick up cash from the ATM within the limits that you have designated by using a string code. Yet others offer excellent overseas exchange rates or good exchange benefits.

The question is why do banks not showcase these functions but rather brand themselves as the bank that will allow your family to dine on the beach (just like everyone else)?  

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to dine on the beach and have a private plane. But to be honest, when I’m choosing a bank, that’s now what I’m trying to do. I’m really trying to find a bank that will make my life easier through its day-to-day facilities, preferably at lower costs. Can a bank make my life easier by allowing me to access the roughly 47,000 plus ATMs that are available in this country and not have to worry about surcharges for withdrawals? Yes, definitely. Will it also give me private jet for signing up? I don’t think so.

At the end of the day, do you want to sell a dream or do you want to showcase your hidden treasure and solve real problems?

I wouldn't know, sir

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The other day as I walked into a well-known international airline office to reserve our family seats for an upcoming international flight, I asked the customer representative whether the flights that we will be on will have electrical outlets.

“I wouldn’t know, sir.”

Why wouldn’t she know? She dresses as part of the organization. She is one of the many people who are on the front line dealing directly with the customers who are the sole reason why this airline exists. Surely it would not be difficult for the airline to brief their customer service representatives on the basic offerings of their airlines, especially when it’s being promoted on the company’s website.

I know from experience that the offerings on flights will depend on the aircraft model and type. Sometimes you get lucky and land a seat on the latest aircraft, offering the latest amenities, and sometimes you end up on an older one, a throwback to the 1990s. I would not have been disappointed to hear from her that the flights that I booked my family were the latter; that’s just life. However, I was taken back that the representative not only did not know but didn’t seem to care that I asked.

I believe consumers are no longer ignorant, especially those who fall within the top 20%. The promises that brands put forth in their marketing outputs are a direct challenge for the brands themselves. If you are a passenger who was seduced by beautiful photographs on the website showing personal screens and electrical outlets only to come onboard and find herself on an older plane with no personal entertainment unit and no place to charge your laptop, how would you feel?

It’s one thing to over promise and hope that most passengers who care land on your new aircraft but it’s another to not train and equipped your customers to know your products and services.